Gordon Hayward to sign four-year, $120 million deal with Hornets

By Erin Walsh | Last updated 11/21/20

The Boston Celtics can officially kiss Gordon Hayward goodbye. 

Hayward has signed a four-year, $120 million deal with the Charlotte Hornets, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The news comes after Hayward declined his $34.2 million player option with the Celtics for the 2020-21 season. 

According to Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports, there might be more moving parts to this deal than many believe. Smith points out that Charlotte has to either work a sign-and-trade with Boston, trade away $7.5 million elsewhere or waive Nicolas Batum to clear some cap space.

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NBA Players Who Should Be First-Time All-Stars

There are only so many available slots on NBA All-Star squads, meaning recognizable veterans and rookies attempting to break through glass ceilings are ultimately snubbed in fan voting and player-selection processes each season. Twenty-year-old Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant is an example of a player who could be an odd-man-out by February. The human highlight reel leading all first-year pros in scoring and assists is the uncrowned Rookie of the Year heading toward All-Star weekend, but he’ll likely have to wait until next winter to receive his first paid trip to the exhibition contest. 

Meanwhile, a pair of special NBA sophomores are all-but-guaranteed to represent their respective conferences and teams in Chicago. They could be joined by a member of their draft class who enjoyed a breakout first half for a club that punched above its weight considering its tumultuous and disappointing offseason. While All-Star competitions across different sports theoretically should feature the best vs. the best, adding a feel-good story to the mix would propel the status of an athlete who is still anonymous to the majority of casual fans.

Luka Doncic 

Last January, in-arena cameras appeared to capture the exact moment Dallas Mavericks then-rookie Luka Doncic learned he hadn’t made the All-Star team. Spoiler: He won’t have much to worry about this month. The 20-year-old who was the MVP of the opening half of the campaign (debate yourselves) began 2020 leading the Western Conference in fan All-Star voting, and he was averaging 28.9 PPG, 9.6 REB, and 8.8 AST on Jan. 15. Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports recently offered the following: “Only two players have ever posted a 28-9-9 over a full season — Robertson and Russell Westbrook — and nobody has done so at age 20.” 

Trae Young  

We understand Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young remains a defensive liability who sometimes seems to give minimal efforts in that aspect of his game. To borrow from ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith: We don’t care. The 21-year-old second-year pro currently leads all point guards in offensive real plus-minus, he sits in the top four overall in PPG (29.1) and AST (8.5) and he produced such impressive figures while John Collins served a 25-game suspension. The Hawks are awful — the worst team in the league. In time, discussions will arise regarding if Atlanta or any team can build a championship roster around a player who is a human traffic cone on defense. None of that should affect Young’s All-Star status. 

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By Zac Wassink  |  Last updated 1/15/20

25 questions heading into the second half of the NBA season

1. Should the Pelicans trade Anthony this season or this summer?

The Pelicans are in 12th place in the Western Conference, and it’s time they start thinking about trading Anthony Davis. If they deal him this season, the Lakers might be willing to part with three of their four young assets (Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart). The 76ers might be willing to dangle Ben Simmons, too. Heck, the Warriors could even offer Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

If New Orleans waits until the summer, the Celtics will be eligible to acquire Davis (a provision in the CBA is preventing them from doing so this season without including Kyrie Irving) and could offer a package including Jaylen Brown and their war chest of valuable future draft picks. The Knicks could offer their unprotected 2019 first-round draft pick and Kevin Knox. The only downside to waiting for the summer is that if Davis demands a deal to a specific team, the Pelicans lose all their leverage. Lots to consider in the Big Easy, and none of it is all that promising.

2. What does the Lakers starting lineup look like this spring?

The best-case scenario includes LeBron James and Anthony Davis. A lineup with those two could win the title. The next best scenario probably involves James, Bradley Beal and whichever two youngsters remain. This lineup could hang with any team in the league but is probably an underdog in the Conference Finals and Finals. The worst-case scenario would be if they make no major moves at the deadline because their current lineup likely has a Conference Finals ceiling and it’d be malpractice to waste a year of LeBron’s prime, like when the team has a number of trade chips.

3. Which teams mortgage their futures at the deadline?

Out West, the Pelicans are sure to be in the middle of everything, as they hold the crown jewel in Anthony Davis. Yet there’s a chance the Pelicans hold onto Davis and make a big trade of their own — we know they were in the mix for Jimmy Butler earlier this year. Everyone knows that the Rockets and Lakers will be looking for deals too. The Kings are desperate to make the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, so keep an eye on them as well.

Out East, any of the top five teams could justify pushing their chips in and try to capitalize on the Warriors’ perceived vulnerability. Also, keep an eye out for Pat Riley and the Miami Heat — they’ve straightened things out as of late and have been trying to land a blue-chipper ever since LeBron James left.

4. Does Michael Jordan deal Kemba Walker?

The conundrum of Kemba Walker: He means everything to the Hornets and wants to remain the face of the franchise, yet they can’t compete with him on their roster. He’s not quite elite enough to carry Charlotte deep into the playoffs, yet he’s too good to not carry the team to a .500 record. With no cap room (maybe you shouldn’t have maxed out Nic Batum, MJ!) and hardly any trade assets (maybe you shouldn’t have turned down four first-round picks to draft Frank Kaminsky, MJ!), Michael Jordan needs to seriously consider trading Walker for some future draft picks and/or cap relief if the Hornets ever want to quit toiling in mediocrity.

5. What do the Blazers do at the trade deadline?

The Blazers are having another solid season. They’re 25-17 and have an average offense and defense. They won’t miss the playoffs, but they probably won’t make it out of the first round if they don’t make a move at the trade deadline. Is this the year they break up the Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum backcourt? How does the passing of owner Paul Allen impact the team’s previously unwavering loyalty to its dynamic backcourt? Would the Wizards ever consider a Bradley Beal for McCollum plus an unprotected 2020 first-rounder swap?

6. Which teams should blow it up at the deadline?

A couple of teams that are teetering on the brink of falling out of playoff contention should seriously consider blowing up their rosters by trading away assets for future draft picks and high-upside prospects. The most obvious team is the Washington Wizards. At 17-25, no John Wall for the rest of the year and no cap space, the team should absolutely be looking to trade Otto Porter and his massive contract, Markieff Morris and his abrasive attitude and even Bradley Beal if a team like the Lakers offers multiple prospects and draft picks.

Just above Washington in the standings, the Magic, Pistons and Hornets are all fighting for the eight seed. If any of them falter, they’d be obvious “tank” candidates. In the West, everything is still congested in the standings, but the Grizzlies and Pelicans will want to listen to offers for their respective stars if they’re on the outside looking in a month from now.

7. Do the Bucks have enough to compete for a title?

When LeBron James was 24 years old, he won his first MVP and led the Cavs to a league-best 66 wins. He was so transcendent that the team didn’t think it needed to improve a roster with Mo Williams as its second-best player at the trade deadline. Everyone knows how that worked out for Cleveland — the Orlando Magic caught fire in the Conference Finals and upset the Cavs.

Milwaukee Bucks fans should be scared to death of history repeating itself with Giannis Antetokounmpo this season. Giannis is also 24 years old and an MVP front-runner, and he’s leading a surprisingly good Bucks team to the top of the conference as the deadline nears. While the Bucks have better secondary options than the 2009 Cavs had, their current roster is probably another scorer and versatile forward away from being threats to win it all.

8. Are the Raptors finally a legitimate title contender?

These dinosaurs are legit. Unlike past years, they have a roster built for the playoffs. Kawhi Leonard is back to being the Kawhi Leonard of old (albeit, a little better on offense and a little worse on defense). Danny Green is having his best season in years. Same goes for Serge Ibaka, whose switch to small-ball center appears to have triggered a Benjamin Button-like reverse aging in his body. Kyle Lowry is second in the league in assists, too.

And who could forget Pascal Siakam — wow, where the hell did this guy come from? In his third season, he’s made the jump from solid defensive presence off the bench to potential All-Star and two-way terror on the court. He’s always sprinting, making offensive players uncomfortable on defense and pushing the envelope on offense — just making winning plays all over the court. He’s like Toronto’s own mutated version of Draymond Green. If you haven’t seen him play yet, you’re missing out on the best spin move in the NBA.

9. Are the Houston Rockets still contenders?

James Harden probably answered this one at Golden State last week where he put on one of the most impressive performances of his career. His three-pointer between the outstretched hands of Klay Thompson and Draymond Green was the climax point of an on-going, 15-game stretch in which he’s averaging over 40 points per game. We know Harden will keep stuffing the stat sheet, but we also know that he’s prone to wear down in the playoffs if another teammate isn’t there to lighten his load. Can Chris Paul get back on track once he returns from his hamstring injury? Does Houston trade for another shot creator at the deadline?

10. Are the Nuggets a legitimate title contender?

Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets’ meteoric rise to the top of the Western Conference has been one of the biggest surprises of this NBA season. Jokic is proving to be a one-man elite offense, as the Nuggets have been able to withstand significant injuries to a number of their key players, including Paul Millsap, Gary Harris and Will Barton. Even if they sputter at some point during the second half of the season, they should finish with a top-four record in the West. The question then becomes what is their ceiling this season with a roster comprised mostly of players with little to no prior playoff experience? A safe bet is that they’ll win their first-round series and then lose a close battle in the second round to a more experienced team like the Warriors, Rockets, Thunder or Lakers. Regardless, the future is bright in Denver.

11. Have the Thunder quietly built a defensive machine to upset the Warriors?

With Paul George playing at a first team All-NBA level this season and Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder and Jerami Grant playing excellent two-way basketball, the Thunder might be the team best equipped to take down the Warriors. Notice I didn’t mention Russell Westbrook? That’s because the Thunder are often winning games in spite of Westbrook. While he is taking two fewer shots per game and has recommitted himself to defense (leading the league in steals), his shooting splits and shot selection are abysmal. He’s a key reason why OKC has the worst field-goal percentage in the NBA. It’s so frustrating because this team could absolutely steal some games from the Warriors in a series (they’re 3-2 vs. Golden State since acquiring Paul George) with its defense and overwhelming athleticism. However, Westbrook has to be a much more efficient player for the Thunder to take down Goliath.

12. Can the 76ers avoid a chemistry catastrophe?

There are layers to this one. For starters, the relationship between franchise cornerstones, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, is somewhere between “working partnership” and “icy.” It’s probably closer to the latter right now after their recent rebounding collision and Embiid’s subsequent freak-out. If that weren’t enough to worry about, Jimmy Butler is apparently already comfortable dressing down head coach Brett Brown in front of teammates about his role in the offense. Some teams can excel amid chaos like this; others fall victim to it. Will the Eastern Conference’s most talented team straighten things out for a long playoff run? Or will it implode from within?

13. Do the Pacers have enough offensive firepower to win the East?

It may come as a surprise to the casual fan, but the Indiana Pacers are a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference this season. They’re currently in third place and have the NBA’s third-highest rated defense despite missing their star, Victor Oladipo, for 11 games this season. Their defense and plethora of excellent role players will keep them in every game come playoff time, but can Oladipo carry their offense enough for them to make a deep run? Look for the Pacers to add some more scoring pop at this year’s trade deadline.

14. What is the Clippers’ ceiling?

How many players do you think a casual NBA fan could name on the Clippers? Three? Four? Despite having no star power, the Clippers are 24-16 and in fourth place in the loaded Western Conference. This is no longer a cute story about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts — this team is legitimately good. Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are all good players and have destroyed unsuspecting opponents this season.

How good are they? Can they win a playoff series? It’ll depend on the matchup and whether they pick up a better two-guard (Avery Bradley stinks now) and rim protector (Gortat isn’t cutting it). They could probably take down any team without an MVP-caliber player in a seven-game series, so if they play the Spurs, Blazers or Jazz in the first round, they’ll have more than a puncher’s chance to advance.

15. Will Jaylen Brown or Gordon Hayward get back on track?

If someone told you that Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward were averaging only a combined 23.6 points per game, you’d probably assume that the Celtics were having the season from hell. Fortunately for Boston, the “Marcuses” (Morris and Smart) have stepped up their respective games and covered for Brown’s and Hayward’s struggles. The team is comfortably in fifth place in the top-heavy Eastern Conference and will always have a chance in any playoff series with Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and the Marcuses playing well. However, if the Celtics want to compete for a title, they’ll need at least one of Brown or Hayward to start playing better. Both have shown some signs of life recently, but an occasional good game won’t suffice come May and June.

16. Do the Jazz have another magical second half in store?

Quin Snyder has been a second-half miracle worker in his tenure as head coach of the Utah Jazz. Last season, after a 17-24 start to the season, the Jazz ripped off a 31-10 record the next 41 games and rode that momentum to a first-round upset over the Thunder. At 20-21 through 41 games this season, Snyder will need to once again work his second-half magic to get Donovan Mitchell and Co. back on track.

17. How does DeMarcus Cousins fit in with the Warriors?

As they attempt to three-peat and win their fourth title in five seasons, the Warriors are struggling with mental and physical fatigue. Even when they’re at full strength, they seem as vulnerable as they’ve seemed since Kevin Durant joined the team. That could all change when DeMarcus Cousins makes his debut. Will the Warriors be rejuvenated by their “new toy” and find new ways to throttle teams? Or will Cousins’ overwhelming but unnecessary offensive talent hurt the team’s on-court chemistry? Boogie’s commitment to defense could ultimately dictate this one.

18. Can Steph Curry really go 50-45-90 again?

Remember when Steph Curry won the first-ever unanimous MVP in 2015-16 and forced us to recalibrate how basketball was going to be played moving forward? That season he averaged 30.1 points per game and joined Steve Nash as the only players to ever join the 50-45-90 Club (FG percentage-3FG percentage-FT percentage). Well, he’s doing it again this season. Right now he’s averaging 28.9 points per game on 48-44-91 shooting splits. (And he’s been in a slump lately too.) Thanks to the equally ridiculous seasons guys like James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo are having, hardly anyone seems to be noticing how insanely well Curry is shooting this year.

19. Can we hand Luka Doncic the Rookie of the Year, already?

Barring injury, the answer is yes. Doncic has been a revelation in Dallas and is must-see television every time he steps on the court. He might even get voted in as an All-Star Game starter. And while he shouldn’t be an All-Star starter, nobody should have any issues with him making the team because he’s averaging 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game and absolutely has a case as being one of the 12 best players in the Western Conference this season.

20. Should the Knicks even bother bringing Kristaps Porzingis back this season?

If you recall, Kristaps Porzingis tore his ACL just before the All-Star break last season. With a crappy roster in place and their sights set on Kevin Durant, the Knicks have been in no rush to get their young star on the court before he’s completely healthy. They are going to evaluate Porzingis in mid-February, but there’s a chance he doesn’t play at all this season.

Should he play? On one hand, it’d be nice to get him back on the court for about 10-15 games to help him get his rhythm and confidence back heading into the offseason — this is what the Pacers did with Paul George following his broken leg. On the other hand, with a shot at the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, they might not want Porzingis winning games for them and screwing up their lottery odds.

Full 25

By Pat Heery

Dwight Howard Booted From Atlanta To Charlotte

Written by Nicklaus Denning at At The Hive.com

The Charlotte Hornets work in mysterious ways. Rumors almost never leak, and they operate with such subtlety that it’s almost always a shock to see their name linked with any potential trade. It isn’t glamorous, but it’s preferable to the firestorm other teams often stir.

While the likes of Dan Gilbert, Paul George, and Los Angeles Lakers collectively set the league on fire this past weekend, Charlotte silently navigated one of the most significant trades in the franchise’s history Tuesday evening, acquiring Dwight Howard and the 31st pick of the 2017 NBA draft in exchange for Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli, and the 41st pick. Given how they operate, it shouldn’t have been surprising, and yet it was hard not wonder whether it had actually happened or not.

Rich Cho managed to flip one of the worst trades he’s ever made, acquiring Plumlee last February, without sacrificing a single asset. Howard’s contract is massive — he’ll make $47 million over the next two seasons — but that last part is key: where Plumlee was under contract for three more seasons, Howard is for just two. That’s significant, because when his contract expires, the Hornets will more than likely be looking to extend Kemba Walker, and now won’t have to worry about the last year of Plumlee’s contract on the salary cap.

Plus, even though he’s aging and out of favor with his previous two teams, Howard is a significant upgrade. He’s not the All-Star center from his days in Orlando, but he averaged 13.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks last season, numbers not quite seen from a Hornets center since Al Jefferson. Unlike Big Al, Howard brings an actual defensive presence the Hornets have lacked for a few seasons.

There are concerns, of course. Howard’s play has declined the past two seasons, and there have always been questions as to how he gets along, or rather doesn’t, with teammates and coaches.

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Heat Win Game 7 in Miami, Made it To Second Round

Written by Cody Williams at FanSide.com

Back on their homecourt for Game 7 with the first round series in the 2016 NBA Playoffs on the line, the Miami Heat came out of the gate in the first quarter looking like they did in the first two games of the series. They were on fire from virtually everywhere on the court against the Charlotte Hornets while Hassan Whiteside was dominating on the interior as both a shot blocker and rebounder. That only set the tone for the rest of the game.

Charlotte admittedly fought back hard in the second quarter and looked like they might make a run to pull things closer going into halftime. Some clutch plays right before the half by point guard Goran Dragic for the Heat, though, stifled that run and the home team was able to go into the locker room ahead by 12 points.

At the start of the second half, the Hornets must’ve been yearning to only be down by 12 points as Dragic and the Heat just went off. They locked down Charlotte on the defensive end of the floor, didn’t allow the Hornets to get what felt like a single rebound, and Dragic, Luol Deng, and virtually everyone on the Heat couldn’t miss on the offensive end. They outscored Charlotte by 18 points in the third quarter alone, putting Miami up by 30.

Obviously the Heat were able to just coast in the fourth quarter, putting in their bench unit to ride it out. Though this had been a great series from the start, it was the Heat that came to play at home in Game 7 and absolutely trounced the Hornets to move on to the second round.

Three Stars

Goran Dragic, Heat – 25 points, six rebounds, four assists, one block

Hassan Whiteside, Heat – 10 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks, ONE ASSIST!

Luol Deng, Heat – 15 points, eight rebounds, four assists.

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Heat Tie Series, Force to Game 7

Written by Rick Bonnell at Charlotte Observer.com

It’s going the full seven games.

The Charlotte Hornets will travel to Miami Sunday for an afternoon finale with the Heat that will decide which team advances to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Heat held off a fourth-quarter rally by the Hornets to win in Time Warner Cable Arena 97-90 Friday night. Two 3-pointers by Heat guard Dwyane Wade (he’d made no 3s in the previous five games of this series) came up huge, overcoming Hornets point guard Kemba Walker’s career playoff-best 37 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter.

Wade blocked a Walker layup with seconds left and then the Hornets had no choice but to foul Joe Johnson. He made both free throws to spread the lead to seven.

Three who mattered

Al Jefferson: He played big in the third quarter, scoring 10 points and sending Hassan Whiteside to the bench with a fourth foul.

Walker: He set a new personal best for scoring in a playoff game.

Wade: He finished with 23 points on 10-of-20 shooting.


▪  The Hornets were without their usual public address announcer, Big Pat, who was out sick.

▪  This was the last game for Fox Sports Southeast telecasts this season. The NBA gives its national television rights holders exclusivity after the first round.

▪  Hornets coach Steve Clifford chose to again use small forward Nic Batum off the bench Friday. Batum was a reserve in Game 5 after returning from ankle and foot injuries.

▪  Batum became a father for the first time when his fiance gave birth to a boy around 1 a.m. Friday. Batum didn’t get much sleep, but he was at the arena for shootaround Friday morning.

▪  The Hornets placed a purple or teal T-shirt on each seat in the arena, with the mid-court line serving as the “border” between the two colors.

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Hornets Beat Heat, Lead 3-2

Written By Satchel Price at SBNation.com

The Charlotte Hornets have taken control of their first-round series against theMiami Heat with a 90-88 victory in Game 5 on Wednesday night. Charlotte has now won three straight games to take a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 set for Friday night.

After three lopsided games to open the series, the past two have seen the Hornets and Heat in close battles. Game 5 went down to the wire and was not lacking in controversy thanks to a few interesting plays near the end of the fourth quarter.

The first came on a Courtney Lee layup attempt in the final minute that seemed to be a missed basket interference call by the referees. Dwyane Wade appeared to smack the backboard and dislodge Lee’s shot, but referees aren’t able to review that kind of call under league rules, so this didn’t undergo any greater scrutiny despite being a very close, important call in a big game.

Lee eventually redeemed himself by hitting the game-winning three-pointer with 25 seconds left, then got into the action again on Miami’s next possession. Wade had a chance to tie the game and possibly force overtime, but Lee blocked the shot and no foul was called. Wade was visibly upset with the officials afterward.

The Hornets went on to close out the game after one last bit of intrigue on an out-of-bounds call in the final seconds. The referees ruled that it was Charlotte’s ball, however, and the team ran out the rest of the clock while the Heat looked less than thrilled by what had just happened.

It was a wild finish to the game, and after going up 2-0, you can see why the Heat are wondering how they got to this point.

Marvin Williams led the Hornets with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting, which was a welcomed performance for the veteran after some rough shooting nights earlier in the series. Wade had a game-high 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting.

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Hornets take Game 4, Tie Series

By Matt Rochinski at Hornets.com

Result: Kemba Walker put the Hornets on his back, scoring 11 of the team’s final 13 points on his way to a playoff career-high 34 points as Charlotte earned its second-straight playoff victory, 89-85, on April 25 at Time Warner Cable Arena. Jeremy Lin tied a playoff career high with 21 points and Courtney Lee grabbed two clutch offensive rebounds in the final moments to help the Hornets secure the victory and head back to Miami on April 27 with the series knotted, 2-2.

Turning Point: There arguably could have been a handful of turning points that decided this one – Charlotte’s 15-1 run spanning the majority of the second quarter that turned a 10-point deficit into a two-point advantage, the Hornets 9-0 run to start the third that pushed the lead to 18, or Miami’s 15-1 run to counter it right after all made their case for the key stretch. However, it was Kemba Walker taking over the way Kemba has tended to do this season that will be the lasting impression that fans walk away from Time Warner Cable Arena with on this night. Having watched a nine-point lead nearly vanish thanks to a 9-1 Miami run early in the fourth, the Hornets needed someone to step up with their playoff lives potentially hanging in the balance. Cue Kemba… and Courtney.

In the game’s final six minutes, Walker would connect on four-straight jumpers, including one three-pointer and make both of his free throws as he racked up 11 of his team’s last 13 points. He didn’t miss anything for a stretch of 5:11 but when he did, it was Lee who was there to secure the win. After Lee missed a 18-foot jumper of his own with 59.9 seconds left and the Hornets up 87-84, he was somehow able to track down his own miss and dish the ball to Walker for what looked like a game-clinching three with 44.8 ticks remaining. Unfortunately, Walker’s shot rimmed out and the Heat came up with the ball. Hassan Whiteside would hit on 1-of-2 free throws on Miami’s ensuing possession to trim the lead to 87-85 before Walker threw up a desperation heave with the shot clock running out with 5.8 on the clock. Somehow Walker managed to hit the rim and it was Lee who was there to scoop up the offensive board again. Lee then iced the game with two free throws with 4.6 remaining, rounding out the final score.

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Hornets Win, Williams Shooting Better

Written By Rick Bonnell at Charlotte Observer.com

Nic Batum is the Charlotte Hornets’ most versatile player. Kemba Walker is the Hornets’ most spectacular player.

But if you graded this Hornets team 1 through 15 on a consistency scale, everyone else would line up behind Marvin Williams.

From the start of training camp, Williams was the player in the best shape. He was a rock throughout the Hornets’ 48-34 regular season, which made it all the stranger that he more resembled a pebble in the first two games of the playoff series against the Miami Heat.

Williams, a 10-season veteran NBA forward, made just one of his 17 shot attempts in Games 1 and 2 in Miami. So coach Steve Clifford met with Williams before Game 3 Saturday in Charlotte, to make sure Williams’ head was in the right place.

Clifford left that meeting knowing there was nothing to worry about. Williams said he was on top of things, reminding Clifford that his first responsibility was to be the anchor of the Hornets’ defense.

Clifford moved Williams to small forward Saturday and started rookie Frank Kaminsky at power forward in the absence of the injured Batum. Williams broke free from his recent slump, making five of nine shots from the field and finishing with 12 points and 14 rebounds. The Hornets beat the Heat 96-80 for the franchise’s first playoff victory since the NBA returned to Charlotte in 2004.

Williams said he was never worried about his shot, pointing out that if his two bad games were in, say, March rather than the playoffs, they wouldn’t have drawn so much attention.

I probably know Williams as well as any Hornet. He’s stoic and steady in a way that allows teammates to lean on him for advice. He practices a quiet form of leadership, because he’s so respected for his professionalism.

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Miami Heat Score 115, to Beat Hornets

Written by Tom Haberstroh at ESPN.com

The Miami Heat just pulled off something that none of its three championship teams did: score at least 115 points in consecutive games.

This isn’t supposed to happen in the Eastern Conference, where pitchers’ duels are preferable to home run contests. In fact, you’d have to flip the calendar back to the 1995-96 Orlando Magic to find an East team that put up that many points in regulation in consecutive playoff games. Yes, two decades ago. Heat rookieJustise Winslow was two months old at the time.

After going up 2-0 against the Charlotte Hornets with a 115-103 victory, the Heat personnel did their best to downplay the significance of what they’ve done. Within seconds of leaving the court, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Udonis Haslem had already done the vet-savvy thing and delivered postgame speeches to the team emphasizing and emphasizing again that they’ve done only what they’re supposed to do: protect home court.

“It’s just two nights,” Wade said at his locker.

But forget that. Take a step back and think about the cast of characters putting on this show. Joe Johnson has been with the team for less than two months after being waived by a 21-win last-place Brooklyn team. Winslow and Josh Richardson are rookies, but they played 32 and 31 minutes, respectively, in Game 2. Hassan Whiteside was playing at the local YMCA three years ago. Wade is 34 years old, coming off four Finals trips in the last five seasons.Amar’e Stoudemire and Gerald Green are on veteran minimum contracts.

And then look at the coaching staff. Erik Spoelstra owned the 24th-ranked offense at the All-Star break, and in January had just lost assistant coach Keith Smart to undergo 30 rounds of chemotherapy for a rare form of skin cancer. And then Spoelstra found out that Chris Bosh’s blood clots had returned, effectively ending the star’s season for good.

Spoelstra had been on vacation when he got that phone call.

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